The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors at its Oct. 19, 2016 meeting unanimously favored a five-year pilot program establishing a living wage that will increase up to $17 per hour for all service contractors and subcontractors doing business with the County.
The Board will hold a second reading of the ordinance at its Nov. 1 meeting. The ordinance — which if adopted takes effect Jan. 1 2017 — is aimed at narrowing the Bay Area’s wide income gap and boost worker retention, particularly of those County contractors providing safety net and other social services. While higher wage earners have seen their incomes recover after the Great Recession, incomes of lower wage earners have not kept pace, resulting in struggles for both the workers and employers.
“It is so essential that we pay a living wage so that we can keep the employees,” said Supervisor Carole Groom who with Supervisor Dave Pine were appointed last December to a subcommittee to study living wage impacts. They convened a work group of 12 nonprofit County contractors, one for-profit contractor and a San Mateo Labor Council representative which met six times to develop the recommendations.
Unlike a minimum wage like that recently adopted by the City of San Mateo, this living wage ordinance sets a minimum wage rate only for employees working on a service contract with the County. Several other California entities including San Francisco and Santa Clara counties have already adopted similar ordinances.
The County’s pilot program has a hard sunset on Dec. 31, 2021 unless the Board holds a public hearing and votes to extend the ordinance. The $17 per hour living wage will be phased in over two and a half years, beginning at $14 on Jan. 1, 2017 and increasing $1 dollar every July 1 through 2019. The rate will then increase annually based on the consumer price index. The estimated cost is $4.2 million over the next two fiscal years and County staff will provide the Board with an annual report on the actual total.
Contracts entered into prior to Jan. 1, 2017 are not subject to the ordinance and compliance is voluntary until April 1, 2017. Nonprofit contractors that amend existing contracts to comply with the new wage rate will receiving an enhancement payment between 0.5 percent and 1.5 percent of the contract.
The County reserves the right to terminate contracts with contractors who do not comply.